The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Dignity devoured, by pack of wolves

One moment of wickedness, one act of animalistic action has pushed Assam back to the medieval age. Shocked' Numbed' For once, these strong words seem to have suddenly lost their sting. I feel indescribable pain as I try to put on paper the emotions that swirl in my heart. Just think, what must have been the physical and mental trauma of the young girl who was stripped naked on a Guwahati street, in front of the whole world, on Senseless Saturday'

I spoke to her on the phone this morning. It is a very cruel way of comforting someone who has been hurt. But despite my strong desire to travel all the way to Biswanath Chariali to meet her, I could not go because of my health. But to my surprise, I found myself speaking to a very strong girl. She is bruised and battered, in body and heart, but her spirit has not been broken.

She choked on her words as she spoke, recollecting the nightmarish moments of that day.

For a young girl who is just starting to look at life and the world in all their wonderful colours, there could not have been a more brutal manner to kill her dreams.

She told me about her passions — music and dance. The daughter of a simple farmer, she will be sitting for the matric examination in a few months.

As a young girl growing up in the countryside, she had never seen Guwahati. It was the land of her dreams — with big buildings, fast cars and fashionable people.

So, the moment she was invited to join the rally organised by the All Adivasi Students’ Association of Assam, she readily agreed. But unlike many of the rallyists, who did not even know why they were coming to Guwahati, she is very much aware of the burning issues confronting the community.

But she had no idea that the fairytale land of hers would be full of monsters. She does not remember — or know — the exact moment when the violence started. All she remembers is the moment she saw her fellow rallyists being attacked. She started running, too, but found herself in the midst of a large group of people. A pack of wolves, I would say.

She told me how their eyes lit up on seeking a nubile young girl in their grasp and how they abused her with filthy language. She could still hear their shrill and wicked laughter ringing in her ears.

As she stood trembling there, like a deer amidst a pack of hungry wolves, the blows and slaps started raining. She tried to save herself, twisting and turning to avoid the blows.

Then they attacked her churidar-kurta; the chunni was first to be pulled away. She saw a knife being brandished by one of the attackers and then the unmistakable sound of clothes being ripped.

She panicked. Begged for mercy. Pleaded with folded hands.

But the “monsters” only laughed. One by one, they ripped off her clothes, till she somehow managed to wriggle out of their grasp and started running. Even as she ran, the last piece of cloth was ripped off from her body.

It was like a nightmare, she recalled. She wished the earth would part and gulp her, ending her misery.

She remembers running down the street and asking for help. But, horror of horrors, nobody came forward. She begged for a piece of cloth to hide her modesty. At last, an elderly man came to her, took off his shirt and gave it to her.

She ran again for help and entered Basistha police station, where she met some other Adivasi activists detained by the police. She was taken to the hospital for first aid and released the next day.

When she reached home on Sunday, it was nearly 10pm.

She told me that she can still feel the pain in her body, a reminder of the assault on her. Those will heal. What will remain is the pain in her heart.

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